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Lesson One: The Creation of Humanity

Women Serving God: Wednesday Evening Study Series
John Mark Hicks and Mark Manassee
January 21, 2004

The Creation of Humanity


I. Representative Positions


A. Egalitarianism: the full equality of role relationships and functions within the leadership and ministry of the church. This position denies male headship as interpreted by complementarians as a theological value and opens all functions in the church/assembly to women according to their giftedness though this is advocated with cultural sensitivity and deference to local customs or traditions.

B. Complementarianism: asserts the principle of male headship (or, male spiritual leadership) in terms or role and function but maintains that many traditional practices are oppressive and deny women the freedom that God permits and encourages. This group is open to more significant and visible participation by women in church life and the assembly since not all leadership is a headship function.

C. Traditionalism: asserts the principle of male headship (or, male spiritual leadership) and interprets this to mean that women are excluded from any voice in the assembly (e.g., women cannot make announcements, verbally request prayers, ask questions, voice a prayer, or testify about an answered prayer in the assembly) or leadership function in the church (e.g., women cannot chair committees on which men sit, teach in any setting where men are present, cannot vote in “men’s business meetings,” dialogue with men about spiritual matters in the context of decision-making, etc.).

II. The First Creation Account (Genesis 1:26-28; NRSV)

Then God said, “Let us make humankind (adam) in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created humankind (adam) in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Textual Points:

1. Adam (humankind or humanity) is both male and female. Adam is incomplete without male or female. Together they constitute humanity—they are a unity (humanity or adam) in diversity (male/female).

2. Male and female have a shared identity: they image God; they are like God. They are the climax of God’s creation. They are unique in that they represent God in his world.

3. Male and female have a shared task: stewardship of the earth and procreation. Together they participate in God’s work. They are co-rulers and co-creators with God.

Implications:

1. Egalitarian Perspective: There is no hint of distinction except the difference between male and female. Everything is shared in this account: identity and task. There are no differentiations of role.

2. Complementarian Perspective: Diversity is present in creation. Humanity is male and female, and though theirs is a shared task and identity, there is nevertheless a diverse role within that shared task and identity. The most obvious diversity is the different roles males and females play in procreation.

3. Both agree, however, that neither male nor female find their value independent of the other, but in relation to the other in marriage or in the larger human community as singles. The male has no priority of worth or value and the female’s value/worth is not secondary to the male or derived from her relationship to a male.


III. The Second Creation Account (Genesis 2:15, 18-25; NRSV)

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it….
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (‘ezer) as his partner.” So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air; and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper (‘ezer) as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said:
“This at last is bone of my bones;
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Textual Points

1. Mutuality is emphasized in this narrative. Man is not designed for solitude, but for community with one who shares his identity. Man and woman are of the same “stuff” (woman is not directly created from the earth)—the same bones and flesh.

2. The woman, unlike the animals, is a “helper fit for him,” or “helper as his partner.” ‘ezer is modified by the prepositional phrase, literally, “corresponding to him” (“suitable” in the NIV). The modifier identifies the helper as one who stands alongside of him rather than beneath him. She is a companion, not a slave. She is created from him rather than from the dust. Thus, she is “bone of my bones” and “flesh of my flesh.” While he is “man,” she is “woman,” that is, one who is like him.

3. The solitary man finds “oneness” in relation to the woman. They share the human identity and live in transparency and intimacy with each other without fear or shame. The narrative moves from human incompleteness (solitary man) to human completeness (man and woman).

Debated Point

1. Egalitarians stress that the text focuses on mutuality rather than hierarchy or role differentiation. Humanity is complete as male and female. Humanity finds “oneness” in relationship with each other as male and female—in marriage, but also as human (male and female) community as singles.

2. Complementarians also stress mutuality, but, in addition, believe that the principle of primogeniture comes into play because man was created first. Just as elder brothers were “first among equals” and charged with primary responsibility and accountability for the family, so man is “head” of woman in a similar way. In addition to chronological priority, complementarians (though not all would use these arguments) have seen “headship” in the man’s naming of woman, woman’s status as “helper,” and woman’s origin from man.


IV. Paul’s Application of the Creation Story in 1 Corinthians 11:3-10

Text (NRSV)

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and man (husband?) is the head of woman (his wife?), and God is the head of Christ. And any man who prays or prophecies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophecies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Interpretation

1. Complementarians emphasize that headship is rooted in creation. There is an honor relationship that is grounded in the fact that woman was created from and for man (cf. a similar argument in 1 Timothy 2:13 as complementarians understand it). The meaning of “headship” does not imply superiority or rank, but relates to function and role. Men are given leadership in family and church, that is, they are accountable, responsible and should take initiative.

2. Egalitarians emphasize that headship relates to origin rather than function. Women honor men because they were created from men, just as Christ finds his origin in God and thus honors God. They emphasize that 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 (“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God”) balances the “honor” relationship. Women should honor men because they were created first, but men should “honor” women because they came through women.

3. The discussion ultimately reflects how we understand the Triune relationship of God, or particularly the relationship between the Father and Son.

a. Is the relationship between Father and Son a hierarchical one where the Son is inferior nature to the Father?
b. Is the relationship between Father and Son a functional differentiation that is rooted in their nature so that they have different functions but yet are equal in essence?
c. Is the relationship between Father and Son a mutually submissive one that reflects equality in essence though they assume different roles?

Questions for Reflection:

1. How does our understanding of creation shape or affect our understanding of male/female relationships? Does the creation story matter? Why?

2. What are the differences and similarities between two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2? Evaluate the complementarian and egalitarian understandings of those accounts?

3. Evaluate the complementarian argument for male headship in Genesis 2? How does Paul’s use of Genesis 2 sustain that argument? Or, should Paul’s discussion be read in an egalitarian way?

4. How have you experienced complementarian or egalitarian relationships in your marriage or dealings with the other gender? What does that look like? How is it problematic?


Resources for Further Study:

Egalitarian perspective: see Rick R. Marrs, “In the Beginning: Male and Female (Genesis 1-3),” in Essays in Earliest Christianity, ed. Carroll D. Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1995), 2:1-36. On the web, see Lance Pape, “Man and Woman in Genesis 1-3: Six Common Misconceptions Challenged."

Complementarian perspective: see Jack Cottrell, Gender Roles and the Bible: Creation, the Fall, and Redemption (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1994), 63-106. On the web, see Bruce Ware, “Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God,” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper, pp. 71-92.




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